Eric Schaefer ‘Who is afraid of Richard W?’ (ACT) 2/5

Using the pretext of Richards Wagner’s two-hundreth birthday, this project celebrates the classical composer’s music in the most unusual fashion.
Eric Schaefer is both a drummer and electronica musician who leads the quartet that includes British trumpeter Tim Arthurs. One of the main criticisms about this project that one can level at the collective is why hide behind the music of Wagner when the band seems fully capable of fronting their own compositions? The music is somewhere between prog rock and 1970s psychadelia with Arthurs supplying the majority of the jazz input and quite why they saw the need to use the music of Wagner is a mystery. It certainly is not an obvious, or even harmonious fusion of sounds. The interpretations themselves are relatively concise in nature, averaging between three to three and half minutes in length with the Miles-inspired harmon mute trumpet of Arthur raising ‘Lohengrin’ above average while in a departure from the rest, the Liszt piece ‘Dante sonata’ features some interesting organ playing from Volker Meitz. Dub flavours emerge on ‘Nietzsche in disguise’, an original composition from Schaefer and this is a perfect illustration of the band’s own repertoire being superior to reworkings of a classical composer who had strictly nothing to do with jazz music. A reggae-fied take on the epic ‘Walklüre’ is recognisable only halfway through when the main theme is introduced. Jazz musicians have, with varying degrees of success, interpreted the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Jacques Loussier making an entire caeeer out of the endeavour) and there are very real parallels that can be made in this particular comparison. However, in the case of Richard Wagner, the attempt to link his music with jazz is both an artificially created and indeed ill-conceived one.

Tim Stenhouse